Prempro, Premarin Blamed for Virginia Woman’s Breast Cancer

A Virginia woman has sued the maker of <"">Prempro and <"">Premarin, alleging the drugs were responsible for her breast cancer. To date, more than 10,000 women who took hormone therapy drugs have filed similar lawsuits against Wyeth, a division of Pfizer Inc.

Hormone therapy drugs like Premarin, Prempro, Premphase and Provera are used to treat the hot flashes and other symptoms that accompany menopause. In 2002, a major study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) determined that Prempro, Premarin and similar drugs significantly increased the risk of stroke, blood clots, heart attacks and breast cancer. The results were so alarming that the NIH canceled the study, citing risk to the study’s participants. The authors of the study suggested that many of the women who used the medications should quit and talk to their doctors about alternatives.

Tina Griffin of Manassas, Virginia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, after taking Prempro and Premarin for less than six years. Doctors had to remove 14 lymph nodes, and she endured almost six months of radiation therapy. While she is now cancer free, Griffin still suffers from the effects of her cancer. For example, surgeries have left her with only limited use of her right arm.

Griffin is seeking damages to cover medical bills as well as pain and suffering. In an interview with The Washington Post, Griffin also said she would like to see the drugs taken off the market, and she wants Wyeth to take responsibility for the alleged injuries they caused.

Prempro and Premarin lawsuits have been slowly making their way through the courts. In November, we reported that Pfizer Inc. has been ordered to pay punitive damages totaling $103 million in two lawsuits involving Prempro. In the first case, a Philadelphia jury awarded $28 million in punitive damages to a 66-year-old woman who claimed her breast cancer was the result of taking Prempro and Provera. Jurors concluded that Wyeth officials failed to adequately warn the plaintiff’s doctors about the drugs’ cancer risks and that failure played a role in the physicians’ decision to prescribe Prempro and Provera. They also found that Wyeth’s conduct in marketing and selling the drugs was “wanton and reckless,” leaving the companies subject to a punitive damage award. The verdict also included $6.3 million in compensatory damages. It was the largest compensatory damage award in cases tried in Philadelphia so far.

The second case, also heard in Philadelphia, resulted in a punitive damage award of $75 million , and $3.5 million in compensatory damages.

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